“You…you then wish to show us the future?” gulped Droka.
“I do,” answered Balmo. She then pointed. As if by some abrupt change, the scene behind Malnar and Droka was now that of the Stock Exchange. A quartet of people were talking, a plump Centaur woman, a beardless Dwarf man, a Halfling man that was small for his people’s average height, and the Halfling’s wife of average Halfling height.
“All I can say is,” remarked the Centaur woman, “I don’t know how. All I know is he’s dead.”
“Do you know when he died?” asked the smaller Halfling.
“Last night, I think,” mused the Centaur woman.
“Is there going to be a funeral?” asked the Halfling’s wife.
“A cheap one, I’ll be bound,” sighed the Dwarf. “Any mourners?”
“I doubt it,” muttered the Centaur woman. “His only friend died before him, his family’s gone, he’s got no one.”
“I’ll go if there’s food,” remarked the Halfling. “You know us Halflings, we MUST be fed.” That earned a laugh from everyone in the group. The observers, on the other hand, didn’t laugh.
“Who were those people talking so rudely about?!” demanded Droka.
“You will understand soon enough,” replied Balmo as the scene changed again. It was a dingy room with items all strewn around. A wicked looking Elf woman dumped her bag onto the floor with a fat human pawing through it.
“His bedsheets?!” he cackled. “I hope he didn’t die of anything catching! Oh, and is this his shirt?!”
“Got them all washed,” croaked the Elf woman. “Don’t want any disease on my conscience. Besides, they was gonna bury him in it! If he was gonna have them, why weren’t he more natural?”
“Can’t argue there!” laughed the man.
“More of them?!” protested Droka. “Balmo, this is absurd! Let me see some tenderness connected with this death!”
“As you wish,” whispered Balmo. The scene change to an older-looking Twelmek.
“Wh…why does he show signs of age?” asked Droka.
“Listen,” directed Balmo.
“My daughter,” whimpered Twelmek as he knelt in prayer. “My precious daughter…” He was kneeling by a crutch carefully preserved.
“…I see,” mused Droka.
“Not yet,” countered Balmo as the scene changed to a cemetery. She pointed at one of the headstones. Droka guessed whose name was on it.
“Oh no,” he sarcastically wailed, “I’m going to die!” He then dropped the act and whirled on Balmo. “This whole thing is a waste of my time!” he bellowed. “First, Freemal has me take a trip through my past! You DO realize that the past makes up who I am, right?! What’s the point of reliving it if I already remember it?! Then, Mordek shows me the present! Oh, wow! It’s like I’m living in it right now! Now, we have you, Balmo, the future? And what IS the future, I’m getting a headstone. Of course, I am! I’m going to die, Malnar’s going to die, her lovers are going to die, Orbak’s going to die, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! …We’re all going to die and leave when it’s too early, so what’s the point of showing me my headstone?!”
“It IS your headstone, yes,” mused Balmo, “but what about the spirits?”
“…Spirits?” asked Droka.
“WHOA!” yelped Malnar. Droka turned and gasped in disbelief. Chained ghosts appeared before them and the faces were all known to him. Malnar, Orbak, Elmpam, Twelmek, and his own ghost, they were all chained.
“Wait a minute!” protested Droka. “I thought I was the only one risking the chains!”
“With you dying,” explained Malnar’s future ghost, “it changed us all. I never married my other lovers, Dad became tyrannical, Mom left him, Twelmek died of depression, and we are ALL chained to YOU! All because you never moved on from your sister’s death!”
“No!” begged Droka. He then turned to the living Malnar and Balmo. “No, please, not them! Hear me! I’m the only one that must be chained! Please! Why show me this ghastly future?! And why tell me this is because I see no logic in moving on from her death?! Do you have ANY idea what it was like?! Would you say goodbye?! COULD YOU?! How can you say goodbye…” at that moment, he was crying, “when someone is living life and not remembering her?!”
“But Daddy DOES remember her!” replied Malnar. “THAT’S why he’s living life! He’s doing it her name! He added Mother’s name to the list of living in people’s name when she died! We’re asking YOU to move on!”
“How can you ask me that?!” wailed Droka as spectral chains wrapped themselves around him. “WHEN MY FAMILY LEFT…it was like losing her all over again!”
“Uncle Droka,” whispered Malnar as she knelt down to see eye to eye with him, “none of us are your sister. Money is not your sister. No one and no THING can replace her. There IS something capable of lasting a lot longer than money. Live in her name and memory.”
“How can you even ask that with your mother dead?” asked Droka. “How can you move on?!”
“It’s a process,” replied Malnar. “Uncle Droka, this is where you are right now. Where do you WANT to be? Where do you NEED to be?” Droka then looked back and saw the ghosts.
“Balmo, are these the shadows of the things that WILL happen or the things that MAY happen?” he finally asked.
“That is up to you,” replied Balmo.
“…Where is my sister’s grave?” inquired Droka. He looked back to see Balmo pointing to a headstone. Droka made his way to it and wiped off excess snow from the stone to read Telna Emboramii, the sister of King Orbak and Baron Droka. “Telna, I have been a foolish man after you died,” he confessed. “Through it, I am chaining our family to selfishness. Well, no longer! I don’t ask for forgiveness, only that I make things right and free our family! I will keep the Solstice with all of my heart! I will live in the past, present, and future! The Divine Ones that showed me what those aspects mean shall strive within me! I WILL NOT IGNORE THE LESSONS TAUGHT ON THIS JOURNEY!” He then hugged the tombstone and cried, his eyes shutting. Malnar shut her eyes and cast her head upward, silently asking the Divine Ones to grant him the chance to change and promising that he would take it.